OT - Prefinished wood flooring vs. on-site finishing

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My main concern was lack of access to parts of the house while the finish cured, where to put everything, and keeping cats out of the finish. Sanding is a mess, but no more than some of the other work I've already done. This is a multi-story house with one stairway and one way through on each floor.
If this were a new or unoccupied home, I'd choose finished in place floors in a heartbeat. The floors are going to run from one room into others, so all of it would need to be finished at once. Prefinished material would allow me to move furniture from one room to the other as I lay the planks.
Is my assumption that all adjoining rooms need to be finished at the same time correct? If not, things change.
Thanks, Barry
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When we (the men of the clan) did my dad's house, We threw out my mom for the weekend. It, too was a two-story with one staircase. The bedrooms were carpeted, but the main trafficway of the house (dinning room-livingroom-staircase-hall) were to be refinished.
We plasticed off the bedrooms and did all sanding and the first coat of poly in a day. At night, we retired to bedrooms via ladders and windows :-) In the morning, we could walk on the floors in socks.
We did the whole thing in a 3-day weekend.
Get some buddies and ship out the family for a few days.
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I've recently installed a pre-fin 'brazilian' maple floor in my living room. I would have to say that yes, the pre-fin is very nice to install, and yes, it looks pre-finished. Not a bad thing, but definitely site-finished has the smooth appeal to it. Not all pre-fin floors have the micro-bevel, but mine does. As far as refinishing goes, the floor is just as thick (3/4 solid maple), so it should be able to be refinished just as many times. I would assume after refinishing some day, I will have the same look as the site-finished floor. I've heard that the pre-fin floors are supposed to have a more durable finish, but I have found the opposite on my floor. The finish is actually quite easy to scratch, and I already have a couple scratches. As opposed to my oak floor which we beat the hell out of and it still looks pretty good. Maybe I just got flooring with cheap finish. All in all, I am happy with it. Its hard to say whether it looks 'DIYer-like' or not, but either way, it looks 3 times better than carpeting! Also, I installed in on a 45-degree angle, so that gives it a really catchy look.
-Rob
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This is my first try at posting. I've been in the wood flooring business for over 30 years. I now teach wood floors. Here are some additional considerations.
Prefinished: Pros-you don't have to move all the furniture out. Just move all the furniture to one side of the room, install up to it, move the furniture onto the installed flooring and keep on installing. This is really a consideration if you have large furniture like pianos, hutches or china cabinets. If you keep some of the flooring left over at the end of the job you can replace a board without worrying about the color, sheen, or height matching. These are problems with on site finished wood.
Cons- More careful with installing. Drop a hammer or nailer and you have a damaged floor. This means the installation process is slower. You also need to inspect each piece before installing it. Hint: fold the boxes flat to protect the floor as you work on it.
Raw wood: Pros- You can do inlays, borders, and be much more creative with unfinished wood. See http://woodfloorist.com/1/borders2.html and http://woodfloorist.com/1/goldfish.html for some ideas. Faster to install as you can fix minor damage in the finishing process.
Cons- Time is the major problem here. What do you do with the family while you are refinishing? When McDonald's knows you by your first name you know you have been eating out too much during the process. I have done jobs where access is a problem and I have finished six boards, skipped six boards, done six boards so you can hopscotch to the bedrooms but it can make the process longer.
Franklyn,
http://woodfloorist.com
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For your first post you did well Franklyn, nice and informative.. I gotta ask though, ;~) are wood floors fast learners? ;~) Sorry I could not resist.
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Thank you all for your excellent responses. Several interesting items that I had not thought of were brought up.
Thanks again! Barry
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Leon,
At first they are stiff and often uncooperative but after a few wacks with my nailing mallet they learn really fast who's the boss and straighten out. ?:)
Franklyn,
http://woodfloorist.com/1/goldfish.html
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On 5 Dec 2003 01:01:26 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@WoodFloorist.com (Franklyn) wrote:

Wow - that's nice work Franklyn. Do people typically do both installation as well as finishing, or is it more common to specialize in one area or another? I would guess, given the level of detail on the above pics, that you probably do both!
JP
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Jay,
I do both equally well. I learned the trade on gym floors in upstate NY. I literally have acres of experience.
Many contractors only know how to install prefinished. Home Depot and Lowe's for example, only will install pre-finished hardwood. (Go ahead and ask them if they install unfinished hardwood) They both sell unfinished but won't install it because they don't allow their installers to sand and finish. That means they can't finish the job. I think it's a liability issue for them that they don't want to get into. Personally I think that's it's a smart move on their part both legally and profit-wise. Why sell the wood and give the money for refinishing to the installer when you can sell the finishing along with the product in the prefinished wood?
On the other hand there are companies that only sand and refinish existing floors. They specialise in remodeling older homes and rarely see a new floor. This cuts the tools they need in half as they don't need all the installation tools.
There are companies that have specialty crews. One crew just installs. The sanding crew follows them and they move onto the next house to install. A finishing crew follows the sanding crew. When I first started I was on an installing crew and never saw a sander or the finished product. This is a common arrangement when you are working on tract built homes.
Then there are companies where the flooring mechanics can do it all. I find this the best as you never get bored.
I have started doing it my own way. I find people who want install, sand and/or refinish their own wood floors. They want a little professional guidance but want to learn a little by participating too. I like this arrangement because I get to see the work thru the eyes of someone who has never done it before. They save some money and have a better appreciation for the completed project. The teacher/temporary apprentice relationship is a lot different than the contractor/customer relationship.
Of course I get into inlays, borders and fancy floors and I teach newbies how to do it all. I also specialise in talking too much. People get the idea real fast that I enjoy what I do. I hope this isn't too long a post.
Franklyn
http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&lr=lang_fr&ie=UTF-8&q=+site:woodfloorist.com+wood+floors
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Welcome! Great to have you aboard!
Very informative post - thanx for all the info.
Renata
On 5 Dec 2003 01:01:26 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@WoodFloorist.com (Franklyn) wrote:

smart, not dumb for email
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Many prefinished floors have a terrific warranty on the finish... But, the finish is not always perfect.
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This is where you need to read the instructions. Every prefinished floor that I have ever installed has a " The installer is the final inspector and is responsible for inspecting the wood before installing it" .
This used to really irritate me. Here some Union carpenter in some factory is not only taking the refinishing part of the work away from me but I have to be responsible if he messes up. I'm over it now.
Franklyn,
http://woodfloorist.com/1/takeupflooring.html
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Yeah... I read the same thing on some engineered maple flooring that I was putting down a couple of years ago. I figured that it meant there might be a possible finish problem. With 6 boxes of flooring for a small bathroom, I ran across 2 pieces that actually had some bare wood exposed. I wondered why the wood did not shine in that spot. It was a shame that I did not have enough problem pieces to make up a box that I could return..
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